For Ryan, it started when a cold passed through his family. As the youngest, six-month-old Ryan, was the last to come down with it. But after the sniffles turned into a raging fever, his pediatrician decided to test a blood sample.
The results were absolutely devastating — Ryan had leukemia.
Ryan's diagnosis was acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), an aggressive and fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. In healthy children, the bone marrow makes many unformed cells called blasts that normally develop into white blood cells to fight infection. But in AML, the blasts are abnormal, and quickly overcome the production of normal red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets the body needs.
There was a ray of hope: because Ryan was so young, the leukemia cells had not had time to spread throughout his tiny body.
Ryan's doctors immediately began aggressive treatment with three rounds of chemotherapy over a four-month period. The little tyke appeared to go into remission...
...until a check-up confirmed what no one wanted to hear: the leukemia cells had not been completely destroyed.
"Hearing that was worse than the initial diagnosis of his leukemia," his mother remembers. "This time around, we knew just way too much."
So Ryan once again began battling for his life. Another round of chemotherapy proved to be effective, but Ryan needed a stem cell transplant to help his bone marrow recover. Stem cells need to be matched between the donor and recipient to ensure they will not be rejected by the body...but no one in Ryan's family had a close enough match.
On January 23, 2003, one week before his first birthday, Ryan received a stem cell transplant from umbilical cord blood that allowed for his recovery and eventual discharge from the hospital.
Today, Ryan is a healthy childhood cancer survivor!